A coroner has criticised Northampton General Hospital for delays in the care of a grandfather who died while waiting for an operation.
Mike Martin’s wife, Patricia, said her 62-year-old husband, from Parklands, Northampton arrived at accident and emergency in agony at about 3am on February 21 last year.
And the inquest hearing, which concluded today, heard he did not see a doctor for five-and-a-half hours after arrival.
When he was seen, a succession of doctors misdiagnosed his abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), a ballooning of a major blood vessel, which eventually ruptured and led to the cardiac arrest that killed him later that day.
His symptoms and case history led all the doctors to believe he had a strangulated hernia, as it was, according to Dr Sadia Iqbal, “a classic presentation” of the signs of that condition.
After surgery was finally recommended, there was also another delay after a reinforced bariatric operating table could not be sourced for Mr Martin, who weighed more than 21 stones.
Summing up, coroner Anne Pember today labelled the delays “unacceptable” and said they represented a missed chance to treat Mr Martin, and this could have increased his chance of survival.
She said: “He was triaged and should have been seen by an A&E doctor within an hour of admission.
“It was not until five hours after admission that he was seen by an A&E doctor, a delay which was unacceptable.
“At 14.35 he was booked for surgery and it was evident that a bariatric operating table would be required. This was not immediately available. There was a further delay and it was not until 16.31 that he arrived in theatre.”
Mr Martin died about an hour later while waiting for his operation.
Mrs Pember added “AAA is a life-threatening condition and had it been diagnosed earlier he would undoubtedly have undergone surgery earlier.
“However the patient was obese and had heart disease, therefore with AAA his moratlity rate [chance of dying] was between 80 and 90 per cent.”
Recording a narrative verdict, she said: “He was not assessed by a doctor for five hours post admission, his pain relief was inadequate, there was a further delay in surgery as a bariatric operating table was not available appropriate for his large BMI [body mass index].
“Due to the unacceptable delay before he was seen by a doctor in A&E, and the subsequent delay in surgery as a result of the bariatric operating table not being available, there was a failure to treat him, a lost window of opportunity, which, if acted upon would have increased his chances of survival.”
A spokesman for Northampton General Hospital said: “We express our sincere condolences to Mrs Martin and her family and are deeply sorry for their loss. We acknowledge there was a failure to provide Mr Martin with the pain relief he needed and to assess him more promptly.
“Following Mr Martin’s death the trust undertook a detailed internal investigation as well as seeking additional advice from an independent expert. We also met with Mrs Martin and her family to share the findings.
“The A&E department at Northampton General Hospital has seen a 25 per cent increase in the number of people attending over the past three years and we anticipate seeing more than 110,000 people within the department during the current year.
“We have increased doctor and nurse staffing levels within A&E to provide more cover throughout the 24 hour period, including recruiting three additional A&E consultants, bringing the total number up to seven.”